Career Beginnings

Career Beginnings

Several months after Tesla has his A/C revelation, he accepts a position at Thomas Edison’s new company in Paris, the Societe Industrielle et Commerciale Edison, also known as Continental Edison Company. Under the supervision of Edison’s colleague Charles Batchelor at Ivry-sur-Seine light factory, Tesla sets to work installing electric light systems and repairing and maintaining direct current dynamo generators. He quickly discovers ways to improve the dynamos, and invents an automatic regulator that is considered a significant advancement and becomes widely used.

Tesla also gains a reputation for solving challenging electrical engineering issues, and in 1883 the Continental Edison Company dispatches him on a challenging mission. As Tesla wrote, “there was some trouble with the lighting plant which had been installed at the new railroad station in Strassburg, Alsace. The wiring was defective and on the occasion of the opening ceremonies a large part of a wall was blown out thru a short-circuit right in the presence of old Emperor William I. The German Government refused to take the plant and the French Company was facing a serious loss. On account of my knowledge of the German language and past experience, I was entrusted with the difficult task of straightening out matters and early in 1883 I went to Strassburg on that mission.”

Tesla spends almost a year repairing the damage and rebuilding the railroad’s lighting system.  In spare hours he works on his vision of a rotating field motor using parts that he brought with him from Paris, and builds the first functioning model of an alternating current generator.

Tesla returns to Paris in 1884 with these significant achievements under his belt, but is disappointed not to receive the compensation he was promised for his successful repairs and improvements to the German railroad light station. Although disappointed, Tesla is encouraged by Charles Batchellor to explore opportunities in America.  Tesla’s description of his departure for the US reveals his excitement and determination for the new venture.

While Tesla worked at Edison’s newly formed electric company in Paris, he made improvements to Edison’s dynamo generator, including an automatic regulator.

“The utter failure of my attempts to raise capital for development was another disappointment and when Mr. Batchellor prest me to go to America with a view of redesigning the Edison machines, I determined to try my fortunes in the Land of Golden Promise. But the chance was nearly mist. I liquefied my modest assets, secured accommodations and found myself at the railroad station as the train was pulling out. At that moment I discovered that my money and tickets were gone. What to do was the question. Hercules had plenty of time to deliberate but I had to decide while running alongside the train with opposite feelings surging in my brain like condenser oscillations. Resolve, helped by dexterity, won out in the nick of time and upon passing thru the usual experiences, as trivial as unpleasant, I managed to embark for New York with the remnants of my belongings, some poems and articles I had written, and a package of calculations relating to solutions of an unsolvable integral and to my flying machine.”

Pivotal Moments in Nikola Tesla’s Life

Explore the inventor's most influential moments and discoveries using our interactive Tesla Timeline.